Raiders Could Be Bold in Second and Third Rounds - NBC Bay Area

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Raiders Could Be Bold in Second and Third Rounds

With several top-rated players slipping into Day 2 of draft, Raiders' GM McKenzie could make move up to snag a playmaker

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    Former Vanderbilt linebacker Zach Cunningham ranks as one of the best talents available as the Raiders await Round 2 of the draft Friday. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

    As the Raiders head into Day 2 of the NFL draft, there are still plenty of players available – several who had been billed as first-round talents – that could fit Oakland’s needs.

    The second and third rounds of the draft will be held Friday, beginning at 4 p.m., and the Raiders are scheduled to select twice, with the 24th pick in Round 2 (56th overall) and 24th in Round 3 (88th overall).

    Though the Raiders will have to wait awhile to make their first choice Friday, they could move up if they see a first-round talent continue to fall. Before the draft, general manager Reggie McKenzie said he was indeed ready to do just that.

    So who might the Raiders like enough to boldly move up to select? Consider:

    * Florida State running back Dalvin Cook was believed by some to be perhaps the best ballcarrier in the draft. He’s battled through shoulder injuries and surgeries, however, and teams are wary of using a pick on him. Plus, the Raiders this week acquired former Seahawks star Marshawn Lynch and have two young standouts in DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard. Still, if Cook is available, he has the potential to be a star – and no one knows how Lynch will perform after a year away from the NFL.

    * Defensive tackle Malik McDowell of Michigan State also had been projected as a mid-first-round pick but went unwanted on Day 1 of the draft. One of the Raiders’ goals was to strengthen the interior of the defensive line, and McDowell is probably the best available DT.

    * The Raiders passed on Alabama standout linebacker Reuben Foster on Thursday to take cornerback Gareon Conley of Ohio State with the 24th choice, even though upgrading at inside linebacker is a priority for 2017. One player who could fit that role is Zach Cunningham of Vanderbilt. He’s 6-foot-3 and 234 pounds and turned in a tremendous performance at the NFL Combine, running a 4.67 40-yard dash and posting a 35-inch vertical leap. Wrote John Harris of the Washington Post: “He doesn’t look the part of an inside linebacker. He’s long. He’s rangy. He’s tall. Then the ball’s snapped and it’s clear why he’s one of the best in the nation. His athleticism is off the charts and he proved that in the combine.” If Cunningham is available as the second round progresses, don’t be surprised if McKenzie and head coach Jack Del Rio – both former linebackers – make a move up to get him.

    Said McKenzie, after the first round Thursday night: “We’re going to still follow our (draft) board. We know our needs, but we ill not let, we feel, a great player slip by, just to satisfy a need. We will follow our board, that’s for sure. There are a lot of good players, so we’re expecting a good day tomorrow.”

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